Hello, and welcome back to the Editor’s Corner! It’s balistafreak again, this time here to tell you about my experiences working with Ozmafia!!
A lot of people have the impression that editors have the easiest job in the localization process. Compared to the arduous task of bringing a script out of a foreign language into a tongue the rest of us can actually understand, or wrestling with the baffling technical glitches that arise when attempting to hack a game’s engine, all we have to do is work with a language we’ve spoken all our lives, right?
The truth of the matter is that “editing” means far more than looking for typos, misused punctuation, and grammatical errors. Mechanical, technical work like this is certainly vital, but it’s also by far the least difficult task we have on our plate. We also have to grapple with far less concrete issues, doing our best to improve the quality of the characterization and narrative flow in the target language while simultaneously preserving as much as we can of the original author’s meaning and intent, all while wondering to ourselves just how the original script must have read. The idiom “lost in translation” is an extremely real and present danger, a sword that perpetually dangles over our heads.
One of the biggest things we had to deal with was that the characters of Ozmafia throw around quite a few loanwords out of English––things like “sankyuu” or “bosu”. In Japanese, these words would sound foreign-ish, yet not be incomprehensible to the common speaker. Simply keeping those words intact when the rest of the script is brought into English, however, removes much of that exotic mystique around them.
Our solution here was to pull the foreign card ourselves, utilizing non-English words that match the backgrounds of the characters while still being easy to grasp for the majority of us English speakers. Caramia’s “sankyuu”, for example, became the Italian “grazie”, while “bosu” became the word for the leader of a mafia: “don”. The process extends to other words as well: to further establish Caramia’s Italian air, we decided to have him call the protagonist Fuka “signorina” instead of something as bland as “young lady”, while Hamelin, the Pied Piper of German origin, instead refers to her as “fräulein”.
Yet if we tried to replace every loanword with similarly foreign words, it’d become inconsistent with the character of the original script, or otherwise be flat out incomprehensible. For example with the German Grimms, while we were fine replacing their “sankyuu”s with “danke”s, we elected to keep the casual “bye-bye” as is. A casual German word for “goodbye” is “tschüß”, which is not a word that most English speakers would understand immediately, let alone be able to read!